NEWS HOOKS Earning PR: Madonna, Modern Family, Better Call Saul

February 26, 2015

PR on the money The Breaking Bad sequel Better Call Saul illustrated the challenge of PR in its most recent episode airing this past Monday, February 23, 2015. [Here’s your spoiler alert warning. Don’t tell me later I didn’t warn you.] Just like The Walking Dead, these AMC TV series thoroughly explore the juxtaposition of right/wrong and human desires/needs. PR does the same thing, because those are the core elements of good storytelling. (I can hear my teachers at The Goodman School of Drama now.) For those who are confused what PR actually is, just watch Better Call Saul. Let me explain.

Better Call Saul is about a shady lawyer and how he ‘breaks bad’ just like Walter ‘breaks bad’ as a chemistry teacher turned drug lord in the series by the same name. In the most recent episode, the character Saul calls the media in his town with a typical David and Goliath story about his small law firm up against the big law firm. He gets no traction. Why? The story he’s pitching is all about him. There is no overarching community story. So what does Saul do? He fakes saving a falling billboard worker from the heights of death. It’s a scam, but the media fall for it citing him front page as a lawyer by day and “hero” by night. Saul appears on TV, in print and more. His phone starts to ring with business.

While unethical, Saul ‘earns’ PR. So, how can you do it ethically?

Easy. Tell a story worth telling.

See, there are three types of marketing today: owned (that’s your website, social media accounts and so on — you control the story), paid (that’s advertising where you exchange money for a message sent to the public — you control the story) and finally … earned (that’s you or someone you hire telling your story to the media and offering you as a source to discuss the news tip and guess what, you DO NOT control the story here — the media venue does). Many people don’t understand these subtle differences. Saul’s story brilliantly illustrates it. Wag the Dog is a movie, by the way, which is a must see if you want to truly understand how we Americans consume PR stories. If it turns your stomach, don’t worry, there are ethical people, like me, working in PR. I promise there are some of us working to share good, truthful stories on a daily basis. Contributing to the ‘good of all’ is really what gets me out of bed. We are the stories we share, I believe.

Another story captivating media attention today is Madonna’s fall from the stage yesterday as reported here by Fox. Now Madonna is brilliant at PR. She has always understood how to tell a brilliant story. In this case, her accident (ouch!) makes headline news not because she planned that (probably not) but because it’s a story worth telling. If you’ve got experience with award events, dance or any type of entertainment insider information, the media will be seeking you today to talk about what went wrong with that cape on her costume. They will be telling this story because, let’s face it, Madonna is impeccable on stage as a performer. So entertainment venues of all kinds will continue to have a hey-day with this accident. Also, calling all doctors! You can ‘earn’ yourself great media coverage today talking about the types of accidents that can stem from such a stunt, shoot, I mean accident. If you look at the footage, Madonna gets pulled from several stairs, making it surprising she didn’t hurt herself more. Accidents aside, just look at Madonna’s career for other impressive PR stunts. Scrutinized and criticized, one things for sure. Madonna knows how to hold the media’s attention because she knows how to tell a good story. Not bad pipes either. I still include her pop songs when I teach Spinning at the gym to beat blogger butt.

Speaking of holding the media’s attention, The Daily Share just had a really interesting segment on about Modern Family’s tech episode. (If you’re a tech expert, take note on this news hook!) One co-host said he was shocked that Apple didn’t pay for that, which appeared to be advertising on the popular TV show. In fact, he said it was actually ‘un-American.’ It shows we’ve come to expect that when brand names are mentioned in editorial coverage, whether on the news or in a TV series, that they are paying a premium for that advertising. What’s more, is that in today’s fast-paced technical media environment, if you have a good story to tell, people will tell it. Even if you don’t pay them. You can just say, you earned it.


NEWS HOOKS That’s insane or is it? American Sniper Trial; Human Rights; Media Favs-Babes & Dogs

February 25, 2015

shutterstock_138867431 People say it all the time with little thought to what they’re actually saying, “That’s insane.” Is it actually insane? Today, the media is asking that question and they need experts who can help the public discussion about what constitutes sane or insane behavior as they process the guilty verdict in the American Sniper trial.

Words. We use them in trials. We use them to ask other people to trust us. Dog and baby food companies use words to entice us to care for the pets and babies we love. In today’s news, media friends are looking for sources who know about toxic dog food and how babies form allergies. LA Weekly is still reporting on how feeding babies peanut products may thwart peanut allergies. What? Haven’t ‘words’ taught us that the opposite is true? Many families have pets and some of these treat their pets like their babies. Surely a public debate on this will continue so families who have been affected by this and health experts who know about the ins and out of this will be sought by media. Fox8 in Cleveland reports on the lawsuit in which a dog food brand ‘words’ (and actions) affect the health of thousands of dogs.

Here’s a PR tip: media LOVE babies and dogs. Why? Because we love babies and dogs.

My husband loves to say to me when I’m stuck articulating something, “Baby, use your words.” He is saying it in a coy and loving way, but here’s the reality. We use our words to create our world. Words = world.

That’s why people are up in arms about the comments Giuliana Rancic made about dreadlocks. Huffington Post reports the whole “is it racist or not” story today.

Words affect the world – the whole world as well. I mean, globally. In college, I was awarded a community honor for my work with Amnesty International. Voice of America reports this organization is releasing its 2014 report stating the world response to violence is ‘shameful.’ As a former Chicago and Louisville chapter leader of Amnesty International, I can tell you that words make a life and death difference. If you’re an author, nonprofit leader or person with knowledge of human rights and the work of Amnesty International, the media will be seeking you to comment on this study.

Finally, today’s shocking words come from an unlikely source. Mother Teresa is in the middle of a controversy sparking global conversation according to the International Business Times. My first job out of college was doing PR for a theater troupe with Call To Action, a group calling for peace within the Catholic church. Religious conversation is a tricky one for the media and if you have the gift of (secular) gab on how to make sense of religious controversy, trust me, the media seeks your voice.

Here’s what I know is really insane. For your voice to not be heard. Speak up. The world is listening.


NEWS HOOKS As the smoke clears: Alaska Legalizes Weed, Boko Haram, American Sniper

February 24, 2015

shutterstock_62404903 Before today’s news goes up in smoke, take note of a few things.

Like all stories, there is a beginning, middle and end. News is just a summary of compelling stories for the day. They’re being written newly each day and by offering yourself as a source to media contacts, you can help shape and form public stories of interest.

Shoot, just now on the TV I saw a “Whitney Houston fan” used as a source to discuss the reasons why her daughter may or may not be in a coma. I found that interesting. I mean, using a fan as a source on coma commentary. Hmmm. See, in the past 25 years I’ve done PR, only experts have really been used as sources. By experts, I mean doctors, authors, industry leaders and people with first-hand experience, say a personal friend of the celebrity or someone who’s experienced what we’re discussing in the news: storms, legislative changes and so forth. In today’s Twitter fueled world, “sources” come in all forms.

To be part of the public conversation a particular news venue is shaping, the first step is to be a fan. Join your favorite media on social media to really stay in touch with the stories they’re shaping. Before the smoke clears and your opportunity to be a source passes you up, take note. If you’re offering yourself as a source, today, you might want to tie in your expertise to these items trending in the news. For example, Alaska becomes the 3rd state to legalize marijuana. Perhaps you live in Alaska or even better, maybe you’re a doctor who can discuss the pros and cons of smoking weed. These are the types of sources media today will be seeking. People who have authored books on the history of drugs or addictions can also use this news to forward a public conversation to which they’re committed.

Patricia Arquette is still in the news today about seeking equal pay at the Academy Awards. But this time, the smoke surrounding her isn’t her politics, but instead how she missed the opportunity to include all minorities. So, if you have a masters degree in social work, local and national media would love to hear the truth about how minorities are under-served and how this Hollywood tie-in fits into news in their backyard.

Dating back to the Trojan war, disguise has always been a large story to tell. Today militants aligned to the Nigerian radical Islamist group Boko Haram have been captured attempting to escape the northeastern town of Baga disguised as women, according to reports like this one from Newsweek. It’s a current-day war story that’s sure to be retold in the future and media friends will be seeking experts who can discuss war, Boko Haram, Nigeria and the use of women as a distraction. This topic is also a war reality that was featured front and center in the currently-in-trial Chris Kyle story, also now a popular movie on PTSD, American Sniper, winning a best-sound Oscar at Academy Award this past Sunday. Kyle’s widow, Taya Kyle, clutched dog tags at the awards ceremony. For weeks to come, experts on war strategy, PTSD/mental illness and how war affects women is sure to continue to blow as the smoke tries to clear.

What’s smoking in your sphere of influence? Connect with media contacts influencing you. They just might want to hear from you; at least until the smoke of today’s news clears.


NEWS HOOKS Having a Say About Equal Pay; Safety at Races & Malls

February 23, 2015

disparity-clipart-k0415214Patricia Arquette leads today’s news feeds. Last night she accepted her Oscar at the Academy Awards and called for equal pay. Here’s a PR tip: If you’re doing work about women’s rights, now’s the time to pitch the media about how you’re making Arquette’s call-to-action a reality. Arquette is using her fame to move forward many causes. Just take a look at her Twitter feed. She’s calling for improved sanitation, clean water and (my favorite) ‘having an opinion.’ Watching celebrity behavior is a good way to forecast what will be covered in the news. Other top news stories today provide opportunities for safety experts who can weigh in about why “soft walls” must be mandatory after Kyle Busch was injured over the weekend. Speaking of safety… how about keeping malls safe? Somalia extremists urge attacks on U.S. shopping malls. If you’re an expert on keeping shoppers safe or a mall shop afraid of losing sales over such threats, local and national media contacts could use your insight. For media contacts seeking sources today, be sure to check out PitchRate. Check back here where I share tips from the trade and breaking/seasonal news ideas for sources seeking media coverage.


How to Get Tickets to the Oscars

February 19, 2015

Oscars
In the past few weeks, my Wasabi Publicity team has been busy scoring for our PR clients the Today Show, USA Today, Investors Business Daily, Shape and many other venues including The Academy Awards. My team had approached media contacts to review our client’s amazing Survival Bars and viola, an email got forwarded to a friend of a friend, and we got word the bars were so clean and so healthy, they were going to be featured back-stage at the Oscars by the Academy Awards production team. At first, we thought it was just going to be added to gift bags, but after several conversations, our contacts said the title of the bars were so clever and the taste of the bar so well-done, that the bars were to be featured not only in the bags, but also the green rooms. So, how do you get a ticket to the Oscars? 1 Great Brand + 1 Great Product + 1 Great Pitch = In the door. What are you doing lately to get your book, service, product or organization front and center with influencers? This is your place for free tips from the trade. Until my next post, check out media who are looking for sources every day 24/7 at http://www.PitchRate.com


Gender Wars Score USA Today

August 29, 2014

Susan B Anthony

We just scored USA Today by playing the gender game. See the article here. When I was a child I remember a playground gender game incident. Just for time reference, Jimmy Carter was up for election. The boy in my class – I don’t even remember his name, maybe Timothy – said girls couldn’t do the same as him and he didn’t care what Jimmy Carter said. Obviously, with a statement like that, his parents might have been arguing about Carter the night before. I think we were in 3rd grade and it was the day after a national debate among presidential candidates. At the time, I didn’t really know who Jimmy Carter was but at recess I was going to give that boy a piece of my mind. I could do the same as boys. In fact, to prove I was as strong as Timothy, I would show him with the cartwheel I had been practicing… or the kickball home run I could score… or … well that was really all we did at recess: gymnastics (because Berandine Clark was so good at that) and kickball (because Dennis Miller was so good at that).Well, my cartwheel flopped and my kickball kick missed. **Shutup Timothy!** But the burn inside me that I could do anything a man could do carried on well through my college and career days. Truth be told, I think that burn still exists today. I say that because I’m currently working on my Spartan Trifecta (extreme obstacle races & mud runs) to prove it. In fact, I just completed the Virginia Spartan Super last weekend. It’s touted as one of the most brutal races ever by the Navy Seal next to me at the shower area after the race. I’m not the only woman who burns with the gender wars flame in her heart. Many men and women have lots of opinions about what men need and women should do. So, why not use this type of emotional burn for your media angle when you’re pitching contacts to score editorial earned mentions about you, your expertise, your book, organization or services? My business partner, Drew Gerber and I discussed with The Women’s Financial Alliance founders Sandy Franks and Pamela Yellen how genders view money, retirement and investments differently. Shockingly, many money experts told them there ‘should’ be no difference, but alas (feeling my gender war burn) there is and that is a key indication of a good pitch for media discussion. Listen to what burns. Media contacts are constantly searching for public conversations that spark an interest. Especially in today’s digital world, it’s important to pick topics that cause debate, stir emotion and yes, have 3rd grade girls try to impress little boys at recess. Wasabi Publicity did just that and scored USA Today not once, but twice. That article syndicated to other venues, like CNBC. So, what topic can you choose today that will put a burn in people’s heart and move them to action? Try it out at a cocktail party and if it incites lively conversation, pitch it on Monday to your favorite top-tier media!


Zip Your Way to Media Coverage

May 24, 2014

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I just became a Costco member this month. Did you know they have organic items in bulk? I am stoked about that. A nutritionist I hired to coach me told me to drive the 40 minute distance to stock up. Luckily, I had a client in the May issue of their magazine Costco Connection, so when I arrived at the store for the first time, I got to hold and relish the article. You can see it here. I loved walking up to the customer service desk and seeing stacks of the magazine, which by the way, reaches more than 8 million people across the country. It’s known in the industry for its wide reach in a time when many magazines are failing. So, how did we secure coverage in this coveted magazine? I contacted the editor. I zipped my pitch straight to the top line of decision makers there. Shocked? Wanted something more in-depth? Nope, that’s the tip. When The Gorge Zipline became a client of Wasabi Publicity‘s in 2013, the owners shared in our client intake calls that they advertised with Costco. So I pitched the editor. He liked the pitch and told me to stay in touch. So, I did. Even after the client’s campaign ended in the fall of last year, I sent out emails about every 3 months to the editor. Repetition is key. In sports or in PR, you simply have to keep the pitches flowing and momentum growing. Then you too might walk into a big box store and see your story covered as well. Don’t let fear of heights grip you. Zip your best line to the top line of decision makers at your choice media venues.